Founded in 1958, the Culture Musical Club is Zanzibar's most prolific and successful taarab orchestra. The club performs widely at concerts in Zanzibar town, but also frequently travels overland with a fold-up stage and an electricity generator to bring its music to the rural areas.
They have released hundreds of songs on the local market and since 1988 have had six international CD releases. The group has been performing in Europe regularly since 1996, and in the past few years they have done shows in the US, Dominican Republic, Reunion and Japan.
Culture Musical Club are known to audiences throughout the world so that rehearsals in their clubhouse have become somewhat of a tourist attraction. Besides taarab, many club members are also active in kidumbak groups, smaller ensembles that play a more down-home, dance-focused music. Both types of music are now included in their shows, contrasting the serene sound of orchestral taarab to the festive and sexually charged dance that is kidumbak.
The taarab orchestra includes three violins, qanun, oud, two accordions, double bass, dumbak, bongos and rika, plus singers and female chorus. The kidumbak side features three violins, sanduku (tea-chest bass), two kidumbak drums, cherewa (maracas) and mkwasa (claves), female chorus and dancers. Main picture: Jeremy Llewellyn-Jones